Organizers of the next federal Green Party event in Campbell River will likely be looking for a larger room in which to host the public if Thursday night’s event is anything to go by.
But whether those in attendance were there in support of local candidate Brenda Sayers or to see special guest Dr. David Suzuki – or both – the atmosphere in the Maritime Heritage Centre was certainly one of enthusiasm, if also a bit congested.
After bringing in a couple of dozen more chairs than were originally set up in an attempt to seat everyone funnelling through the door, organizers introduced Sayers and Suzuki and welcomed the public to their Town Hall meeting, billed as, “What Kind of Canada do we Want?”
Sayers opened the night by giving those in attendance a bit of background on herself, saying she came from a hard-working First Nations family, has been proud to represent her people as a councillor, especially in the court challenge against the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), “and I am very proud of the roots from where I come, and I know who I am.”
“And as I move forward towards being a member of parliament in the house to represent the people,” she said, “I think it’s a very important quality to have to know who you are, to know that you’re going to stand for the people, no matter what the challenge, no matter what comes your way. I will stand for the people.”
She went on to talk about how her values mesh with the values of the Green Party of Canada, which is why she wanted the candidacy.
“The Green Party is unique in Canada,” she said. “It doesn’t fit into the archaic political model that Canadians have been forced to vote for. The Green Party isn’t too far to the left, nor is it too far to the right. It covers the entire political spectrum. We have sound economic policies, just social policies and progressive environmental policies. We are not a one-issue party. And the truth is that the Green Party of Canada is the only party that opposes natural resource extraction that causes irreparable harm to the environment and to the people.”
She also said the direction that has been taken on energy development needs to shift towards renewables in order to combat climate change.
“With our collective minds, we need to change the moral direction of our country, and believe it can be done with the right people sitting in the house, speaking on your behalf, and I would be honoured, honoured to be that person.”
With that, she introduced Suzuki.
“This is the first time I’ve spoken up during this campaign, and thank goodness it’s a long campaign, he said, spurring laughter from the room. “You’re getting my virgin speech, so it’ll be kind of rough, but I’ll hone it over the coming weeks.”
He announced that he was not there to advocate for any organization, including the party who had invited him.
“I’m here to add my voice to do everything I can to make sure that Stephen Harper does not get in again,” he said to raucous applause.
He touted proportional representation, shared his outrage at the robocalls controversy and how it showed, he said, the Conservatives’ thoughts on democracy – intentionally misleading people so they couldn’t exercise their right to vote – and, most fervently, the importance of recognizing the importance of science within our culture.
He said that the U.S./Russia battle to dominate outer space in the 1950s generated all kinds of spin-off benefit, because the U.S. dedicated themselves to the cause of science and technology – the same way Canada must do now.
What we learned from the space race, Suzuki said, is that we need to step up and make a commitment towards the goal we want to achieve.
“The Americans just said, ‘We’re gonna beat these guys.’ They had no clue how they were going to get to the moon and back, but they did it,” he said, and they did it by setting themselves a goal – which may have seemed unreachable to some – and they dedicated themselves to it. We can do the same in addressing climate change and our environmental footprint.
He went on to talk about the current Conservative government’s track record and relationship with science and statistics in creating public policy.
“I believe that in a society in which you are informed, the more information we have, the better decisions we will be able to make. Give people more information and let them make wise decisions. The Harper government has moved in exactly the opposite direction. We know statistically that crime rates are falling, and yet he wants to expand our prison system. It doesn’t make any sense. We know that safe injection sites save lives, and yet Harper opposes safe injection sites. When law enforcement officers at all levels say that we need gun registration, Harper has cancelled it and demanded that any trace of what we’ve got registered now be destroyed. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He also tore into the Conservative government’s cancellation of the long-form census and their cancellation of science initiatives and programs as part of what he sees as “declaring war on environmentalism.”
He closed by agreeing with Sayers’ assertion that a change in attitude from our politicians is needed for the country to move forward.
“We need a sense of moral climate in Ottawa, for God’s sake. We have a moral responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for future generations. We’ve got an obligation to them, and we have to start paying attention to that.”